Nonoma’e’e had learned that the circles of glass that Giles wore over his eyes were sometimes called glasses and sometimes called spectacles. She did not know why they had two names; unless it was because the cups made of glass, from which the Vé’hó’e drank colored water, were also called glasses, so that the other word could be used when there might be confusion. She had also learned that when he took them off and rubbed the glass pieces with cloth, as he was doing now, it did not mean that they needed to be cleaned. It meant that he was thinking.
“I doubt if this, ah, malfunction of the, ah, Buffy necessarily means that it was an outside attack,” he said, and he replaced his glasses on his nose. “There are innumerable ways in which computers can go wrong by themselves without needing to postulate external interference.”
“Hey, Giles, no fair using all those big words in front of Nonoma’e’e,” Dawn scolded him. “I’m not up to translating ‘postulate’ into Cheyenne yet. Not by a long way.”
“Oh, I do beg your pardon,” Giles said. “Ah, I mean that, ah, Buffy’s problem could well be natural. I don’t think it has anything to do with the demon summoner or any other enemy.”
Nonoma’e’e was not convinced. “Buffy say,” she said, trying hard to remember what Dawn had told her about using the little words that went between the other words, “it is the little iron bug that make her go sick not to move. She, é’évapéveotse, she is not sick when we take little bug away and it go burn.”
“I don’t know how reliable her interpretation of her own mal – ah, sorry. I don’t know if she would be able to tell if it was because of something inside her, or something outside, that she, ah, became ill,” Giles said.
“I did not malfunction,” Buffy stated. “All my systems are working perfectly. Something interfered with my timing cycle so that there was a discrepancy of fourteen minutes and nine point six seconds between internal and external elapsed time.”
“Or, in other words, your clock stopped,” said Giles. “I really don’t think that we need to pursue this matter any further.”- - - - -
“Tell you what, Thunder, I think we could do with introducing you to some of the demons around town,” Spike said.
Nonoma’e’e frowned. “Not know word ehn’tvo’oo’sin.”
“Sorry, pet. Meeting them, talking to them.”
Nonoma’e’e continued to frown. “Why? I kill, why talk?”
Spike’s eyes rolled. “Bloody hell, Thunder, thought you knew better than that. You’re not going to kill me, are you?”
“No. We smoke, make peace, you notâxeo’o.”
Nonoma’e’e bit her lip. She had meant only that he was a member of her warrior society, and in fact there were no words in her language that could be used for friendships between men and women, but perhaps he was correct. She did not want him to court her but his company was pleasant. “Yes, we friends.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve got some demon friends that I wouldn’t want you to kill. Not many, but a few. They don’t kill people, just try to get along, don’t see any reason for you to cut their heads off. Stick to the ones who want to eat people, okay?”
That made good sense. If there were Heávóh’e who wanted only to live in peace then there was no point in attacking them. The Vé’hó’e did not follow that principle, as they had made peace with her people and then attacked them anyway, but she did not want to do as they did. “I do what you say. You show me these Heávóh’e I not kill.”
“I’ll take you to meet them, like I said,” Spike offered. “You can see them in their natural habitat. Smoky back rooms in sleazy bars.” He grinned. “One thing, though. If they offer you a drink, don’t take it.” He held up a hand. “Not saying they’d poison you, if I thought they would I wouldn’t be suggesting that you don’t kill them, but it wouldn’t be a good idea for you to get pissed – drunk, that is.” He muttered the next words under his breath. “Bloody Yanks and their ballsing up a perfectly good language.”
“I not understand,” Nonoma’e’e told him. She resolved to work harder at learning the tongue of the Vé’hó’e. There were too many times that she did not understand what they were saying. Spike was in some ways the hardest of all to understand, more so than Giles, even though he usually used shorter words. Dawn was the one she found easiest to understand and it was Dawn who was doing more to teach her than any of the others.
“Stuff we drink, that’s white men not just demons, makes people act a bit funny,” Spike explained. “Supposed to affect your people worse than white men, innit? At least that’s the way it is in the stories. The Indians drink firewater, go crazy, start chopping away with their tomahawks and then the cavalry come. Not good.”
“I know Vé’hó’e have drink, vé’ho’emahpe, make émâsêhánee'e, crazy,” Nonoma’e’e agreed. “I not drink vé’ho’emahpe. I not want be crazy.” She frowned once more. “Why you say ‘white men’ when you say... talk... about Vé’hó’e?”
Spike’s eyebrows went up high. “Thought that was what you called us. Humans my color, that is, not vampires. So ‘Way-ho-uh’ doesn’t mean ‘white man’, then?”
“No,” Nonoma’e’e told him. “You not white. Néhohpâhéata, you pale, not white. Néma’óma’ôhtsévo.” She thought for a moment. “Pink.”
“So what does ‘Way-ho-uh’ mean, then?”
Nonoma’e’e could not remember the word in his tongue. She mimed it with her hand, moving her fingers like the legs, showing the creature walking and climbing, and then put two fingers to her mouth to represent the fangs.
“Never was all that good at ‘Twenty Questions’,” Spike muttered under his breath, “and somehow I don’t think that the answer will be ‘a breadbox’ this time. Fangs. Not vampires, obviously, and not snakes ‘cos of the legs.” He raised his voice to a normal level. “Ants? Spiders?”
Nonoma’e’e recognized the word. “Spiders,” she confirmed. “Vé’hó’e are spiders.”
“Oh?” Spike chuckled. “Serves us right, I s’ppose. Spiders, huh?” He began to sing. “The spiders, are not insects, but in a war they would side with the insects. Traitors! Traitors! Spider traitors! They’ll betray us, and they’ll make us human slaves, in an insect nation. Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah! Human slaves, in an insect nation. Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah!
Nonoma’e’e felt a smile come to her lips. “I think,” she told him, “when I learn your tongue good I still not understand you.”
“You and everybody else in this bloody country, pet, ‘cept for Giles some of the time. Okay, kid, let’s go on a tour of the demon bars.”- - - - -
“The usual, Dave,” Spike said, “and a Coke for the lady. She’s under age.”
“I’m not ssstrict about carding,” Dave replied. “The copsss don’t bother usss here.” He looked like any other Vé’ho’e until he opened his mouth. His tongue was split into two at the end like that of šé’šenovôtse, the snake.
“Nah, ’s okay, just the soda, she’s not a drinker,” Spike told the man, or rather the Heávohe, and then Spike took out one of the pieces of paper that were money and gave it to Dave. The man with the forked tongue put two glasses in front of Spike and poured out brown liquid from a bottle into one. He filled the other with black water that foamed. Spike picked up that one and passed it to Nonoma’e’e. “Cheers, pet,” he said, and drank from the other glass.
Nonoma’e’e sipped at hers cautiously. It tingled on her tongue in a way that was not unpleasant. The taste was sweet and she guessed it was made from some type of fruit unknown to her. “É’pêhévoomoëha,” she said. “Good.”
“Bring it with you, pet,” Spike said, gesturing with his empty glass. “We’re going through to the back room to meet the boys.”
“I think – thought – we go talk to Heávóh’e?” Nonoma’e’e picked up her glass and followed Spike.
“Well, yeah,” Spike said. “That’s who the boys are. Just an expression. They’re real low-life demons. Not a bad bunch, though, as demons go.” He led her through a door into a room where four Heávóh’e sat around a table covered by a green cloth.
They were not the kind who could pass unnoticed amongst the Vé’hó’e. One had three eyes, and large horns that curved down and forward like those of kösa the sheep of the high mountains; another had skin that was too big and hung in folds, ears that were big and pointed, like a dog’s, and they too drooped down, and his fingers ended in long claws; the third was shaped like a man but had skin as green as háo’taoohesoneho, he had four short horns, and his nose looked as if some animal had been gnawing on its tip; the last was also green and even more like háo’taoohesoneho, for his skin was made of scales, but at the back of his head his hair hung in thick strands that were like ropes. All of the Heávóh’e held in their hands the picture cards that the Vé’hó’e used for gambling.
The green Heávohe with the four horns looked up and spoke. “You know the game, Spike,” he said. “You in? And who’s the human?”
“You should know better than to bring humans here,” the one with too many eyes said, “and you’re not welcome anyway. You kill our kind.”
“Don’t kill blokes who behave themselves, mate, you know that,” Spike said. “You’re safe. ’Less there’s something you’re not telling me…”
“No, no, nothing like that,” the Heávohe said, his words coming out very quickly.
“So, are you in, Spike?” asked the Heávohe with the loose skin.
“Nah, not tonight,” Spike replied. “Just came round to introduce you to the Slayer.”
“The Slayer?” The four-horned one’s eyebrows, or rather the places where eyebrows should be because this Heávohe was hairless there, climbed. “So, the rumors were true?”
“Dunno what rumors you’re talking about,” Spike said, “but they’re prob’ly a load of bollocks. Been two Slayers for a while now, remember?”
“So the one in jail is dead, then?” the loose-skinned one suggested.
Spike shook his head. “She’s alive, far as I know,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been dead. She was in a coma a couple of years back, remember, and maybe she flat-lined. My best guess is the Slayer who came next was somewhere bloody remote, like maybe Papua New Guinea, and the Council of Wankers never found her. Wouldn’t have been looking, after all. When that one popped her clogs it was time for Thunder here.”
“Yeah. Boys, this is Thunder. Can’t pronounce her real name, sorry, but Thunder will do. Thunder, this is Clem,” Spike gestured towards the Heávohe with the floppy ears and folded skin, “and the other blokes have names that I can’t pronounce either. Call the one with the eyestalks and the horns Shaun, the geezer with the scales and the dreadlocks goes by Eli, and the green bloke with four horns is Kyle.”
“Héehe’e, pêhéveéšeëva,” Nonoma’e’e said. “I say, hello.”
“I’m guessing you’re not from around these parts,” Kyle replied.
“Oklahoma,” Spike said. “Thunder’s a full-blooded Cheyenne and her parents weren’t too keen on modern civilization. Brought her up according to the old ways. Cheyenne as her first language, home schooling, no TV, and this is the part that probably matters most to you blokes, three hours tomahawk practice every day. Word to the wise, mates, don’t ever do anything that will piss her off. Bloody lethal, she is.”
The scaly one, Eli, stared at Nonoma’e’e and his eyes blinked several times. “So what’s she doing wearing a gun?” he asked.
Nonoma’e’e was surprised. The gun was hidden by her buckskin jacket. If the Heávohe could see a bulge surely he would have expected it to be the axe, which Spike had already mentioned, or a wooden stake?
“You using that X-ray vision again, Eli? Beats me how you can get anyone to play cards with you,” Spike said.
“Like I keep telling you,” Eli said, and he gave a sigh, “I can only see metal objects and bone. I can’t fine-tune it enough to see through cards and read the other sides. What part of ‘X-ray’ don’t you friggin’ understand? Anyway, answer the question. What’s with the gun?”
“Another old Cheyenne tradition,” Spike said. “Keeping trophies you win in battle. The gun was Razor’s. He didn’t have any further use for it after Thunder put her tomahawk through his brain.”
“Ah.” Eli shrank down in his seat slightly. “That’s… cool. So, uh, nice to meet you, uh, Thunder, and I’d like to say that I absolutely and totally don’t eat people or harm them in any way whatsoever.”
“If those are true words I… will not kill you,” Nonoma’e’e told him. She smiled, as much because she had remembered to use ‘will’ as because she wished to show friendship to the Heávóh’e, and the scaly creature’s expression formed into something like a smile in return.
“Good to know,” he said. The horned one with the eyestalks, and the green one with the gnawed nose, hastened to give her similar assurances of their good intentions towards humans.
“Cheyenne,” the wrinkly one mused. “The People. Allies of the Arapaho, if I recall correctly, and sometimes of the Sioux. Victims of a couple of really horrible massacres by the cavalry…”
“Clem,” Spike hissed, “drop it. Not a safe subject.”
“Oh, sorry,” said Clem. “I didn’t think. Sorry. I’m, uh, delighted to meet you, Miss Thunder.” He stretched out his hand across the table in Vé’hó’e fashion.
Nonoma’e’e reached out, accepted the hand, and shook. “Pleased to meet you,” she said, choosing her words carefully.
“I’m harmless,” Clem said, “as Spike will confirm. I only eat small animals.”
“Speaking of which,” said the four-horned one, Kyle, “it’s about time we got back to the game. You in, Spike?”
Spike shook his head. “Nah, I’ll pass,” he said. “Just dropped in to introduce Thunder, like I said, and ask a couple of questions.”
“Okay, guys,” Kyle said, “ante up.” He reached under his seat and came up holding a small animal. Ka’eeséhotamëso, a young short-nosed dog, the animal like a small version of móhkáve, but without the tufts on its ears, that lived with the Vé’hó’e in the same way as dogs and horses lived with the Tsétsêhéstâhese. The other Heávóh’e did the same so that there were four of the animals on the table. Kyle gave cards to each of the others, pausing occasionally to prevent the ka’eeséhotamëso from escaping, and all of them studied the cards.
It seemed very awkward to Nonoma’e’e. When the men of her clan gambled for horses or hides they relied on memory, or used tally sticks in complicated games when memory might not serve, rather than gathering the horses together and passing them around as the game progressed. She understood that the ‘money’ of the Vé’hó’e was something like tally sticks, but had acquired a value of its own, and to use it would be much easier than dealing with the small but lively animals.
“Why you not use money?” she asked.
“There aren’t all that many places where we can spend money,” Clem explained, “and so we have our own alternatives. With kittens, we can eat them after the game.”
That made sense, Nonoma’e’e could see, although she still thought that using money would be easier as it would not try to escape. There did not seem to be much meat on the ‘kittens’ but perhaps they were a delicacy to the Heávóh’e. She guessed that they would taste like heóvêsé'tâheo’o, the yellow-footed rabbit.
“Speaking of not being able to spend money,” Spike put in, “any of you blokes know anything about a demon who robbed a bank a week or so back? Doubt if he was in it for himself, would have stuck out like a sore thumb if he’d gone anywhere to spend the dosh, so he’ll have been working for some human. Maybe a partner, or hired, or maybe summoned to do the job by some warlock git.”
“I heard it was Gihl-hrung the M’Fashnik,” Eli said.
“Yeah, and I heard that Gihl-hrung turned up dead,” Kyle added, “which kind of rules out asking him any questions.”
“Yeah, well, the daft pillock thought he’d round off his bank robbery with a bit of Murder Death Kill,” Spike said, “only he was bloody stupid enough to pick Buffy and Thunder as the prospective victims. Both at once. And, unfortunately, they’re ‘Slayers’, not ‘Capturers’. So, he’s a dead end. Sure none of you know anything? Any humans asking around about demons for hire, any summoners in business around here?”
All but one of the Heávóh’e shook their heads to indicate that they knew nothing. The three-eyed one with the big horns, Nonoma’e’e had forgotten its name, opened and closed all three eyes and spoke. “This guy I know, Ferris, he’s a Tor’yll, was telling me about being right in the middle of something, and then all of a sudden it was an hour later, he was a mile away, and he had no idea what the hell he’d been doing. Maybe he got summoned and, uh, controlled or something.”
“Tor’yll,” Spike said. “They’re the green buggers, look a bit like Predators, with the up-and-down mouths, right? People-eaters, worse luck, which pretty much rules out civilized conversation. Still, doesn’t sound like he’d be able to tell us much. Thanks for the info, mates.” He set down his half-full bottle of vé’ho’emahpe on the table. “Finish this off if you like, lads. And, tell you what, I’ll leave the money for another bottle with Dave on our way out.”
“Thanks, Spike,” Eli said. He sounded to Nonoma’e’e as if he was surprised by the offer, as did Kyle, and the three-eyed one, when they added their thanks to his.
“If you don’t mind, Spike, I’d rather have a beer,” Clem said.
Spike smiled. “Sure thing, Clem, mate. I’ll send Dave in with a pint. Okay, lads, see you around. ‘Night.”
“Pêhévetaa’ëva,” Nonoma’e’e added. “Good night.”- - - - -
“Those Heávóh’e your friends?” Nonoma’e’e asked Spike, after he had given money and instructions to the snake-tongued one and they had left the ‘bar’.
“Well, ‘friends’ would be pushing it,” Spike said, “’cept for Clem. He’s about the only demon friend I’ve got. The others, well, they’re okay to play cards with but I wouldn’t want them behind me with a stake in their hands. Think you put the wind up them enough that they’ll behave themselves, though, and they’re small-time anyway.”
“Put the wind up?” Nonoma’e’e echoed his strange words.
“Scared them,” Spike explained. “Sorry. Must remember to be a bit more careful with my words when you’re around. Giles can understand me, and so can the Bit these days, but the other Scoobies get confused. Thing is, I don’t care. Different with you.”
“It all same,” Nonoma’e’e said. “Much that others say I not understand… moméneó’êsóva… anyway.”
“Yeah, but I don’t want to confuse you,” Spike said. “If you’re supposed to be a Native American from Oklahoma it would be a bit weird if you end up spouting off British slang. ‘Course, it would be just as odd if you started using California teen-speak like the bloody Scoobies. Best thing for you would be to copy Tara. She speaks about the closest to standard American English you’ll come across around here, and the quirks she has are Southern – probably close enough to Oklahoma to pass, at least around here.”
“I do that,” Nonoma’e’e agreed. “Épévoéstomo’he. Tara has good heart.”
“She has that,” Spike said. “’Course, not so long ago I would have…” He broke off as three figures in long coats approached. The lamps that the Vé’hó’e used to light up their villages at night did not give a true light, and it was hard to be sure of colors, but the skin of these newcomers seemed to be green. Their heads had no hair, only things like the tails of snakes that hung in pairs from the sides of their heads, and their mouths were narrow across but long up and down.
“É’tšêhe’ma'kësta’xáhtse,” Nonoma’e’e commented, making a joke in her own language, and then translated for Spike. “They have mouths like… girl parts between legs.”
Spike gave a short laugh. “’Cept for the teeth, yeah,” he said. “Tor’yll demons. Looks like our mate the summoner has been busy again.”
There was no time to talk further. The Heávóh’e had advanced quickly and were almost within striking range. Nonoma’e’e reached under her jacket, on the other side to the gun, and pulled out her axe.
Two of the Heávóh’e came for her and the other attacked Spike. They were fast and agile. She struck at one but it side-stepped and avoided her blow. She whipped the axe around in a reverse arc and hit the Heávohe with the back of the axe head. It was a hard strike, and her opponent staggered, but before she could follow up her advantage she was forced to leap aside in her turn to avoid a kick from its companion.
The second Heávohe followed up with a clenched fist. This was a method of fighting unknown to the Tsétsêhéstâhese, although she had learnt the basics from He-Who-Watches-Them, and it managed to strike her on the side of her head. She rolled her head with the punch, took little hurt from it, and when the Heávohe delivered a second such blow she caught its arm with her free hand. She pulled on the arm, stuck out her leg to trip the Heávohe, and threw it to the ground.
The first one was returning to the attack. She met it with an axe blow, inflicting a wound to its arm, and drove it back. Before it could return she put her knee against the trapped arm of the other, twisted the arm and pulled on it, and felt its elbow joint break. The Heávohe gave a yelp like the cry of ó'kôhóme the coyote.
The other one charged once more. Its eyes were fixed on her axe hand and so she kicked high, a move much easier in the hohtóhonôtse pants that she now wore than it would have been in a dress, and connected with its face. She sent it flying back and it fell to the ground.
The movement as she kicked had done even more damage to the arm of her captive and it yelped again. She stamped down upon its head and it became silent. She glanced over to check on Spike, saw that he had his opponent in an arm-lock and was striking it repeatedly in the face with his elbow and forehead, and she knew that she need have no fears for him.
The one with the broken arm lay still. She released her hold and rushed to the one she had kicked. It tried to get to its feet but was too slow and she struck it with her axe as it rose. The blade pierced its skull and sank deep into its head. The Heávohe dropped to the ground once more. Almost at once its body began to melt away. It turned into something like green mud, became a puddle, and then was gone altogether.
She returned to the one with the broken arm. “Néstaxe Spike,” she asked, “we take this one prisoner, ask him question who send him?”
Spike paused with his elbow cocked ready to deliver another blow. His opponent slumped helplessly in his grip, obviously no more than semi-conscious, and made no move to free itself. “Nah,” Spike said, after considering the question for a few seconds, “don’t think he’d know anything. Shaun said the bloke he knew, who’s probably one of these buggers anyway, couldn’t remember anything that had happened while he was under control. Not worth carting one back home and then not learning anything. Haven’t exactly got anywhere to keep prisoners and, to tell the truth, I’ve lost my enthusiasm for it after I was locked up myself. Just kill the git.”
Spike suited his own actions to his words and snapped the neck of the Heávohe. It began to melt and he had to release it and jump back hastily to avoid becoming covered in the green ooze.
“They turned up pretty quick after we asked the questions,” Spike mused, as Nonoma’e’e used her axe to finish off her wounded foe. “Can’t see any of the blokes in the bar tipping off whoever’s doing the summoning and, even if they had, he’d have had to be right next door to respond this fast. Bloody strange.”
“You think we go back, ask them more question?” Nonoma’e’e suggested.
Spike shook his head. “Really don’t think it’s worth it. Tell you what, pet, let’s hand the problem over to the bloke who’s paid to do the thinking. We’ll report it all to Giles.”- - - - -
Disclaimer: the snatch of lyrics sung by Spike is from ‘Human slaves (in an insect nation)’ by Bill Bailey and is used without permission and with no intent to claim ownership or profit from their use.